ISIS militants have executed three captives in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra by tying them to columns and blowing them up, activists say.
The identities of those reportedly killed on October 25 have yet to be given.
However, they are thought to be the first to have been killed in that way since the jihadist group seized the ruins in May.
ISIS has destroyed two 2,000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers at Palmyra, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.
The Islamic State believes that such structures are idolatrous. The UN cultural agency, UNESCO, has condemned the destruction as a war crime.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the conflict in Syria, cited local sources in Palmyra as saying that on October 25 ISIS militants tied three detainees to Roman-era columns and then blew up the structures with explosives.
An activist from Palmyra, Khaled al-Homsi, said ISIS had yet to tell locals the identities of the three individuals or say why they had been killed.
“There was no-one there to see [the execution]. The columns were destroyed and IS has prevented anyone from heading to the site,” he told the AFP news agency.
Another activist, Mohammed al-Ayed, said ISIS was “doing this for the media attention”.
After overrunning the ruins of Palmyra and the adjoining modern town, also known as Tadmur, ISIS militants used the ancient theatre for the killing of 25 Syrian soldiers.
They also beheaded archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, who looked after ruins for 40 years, after he reportedly refused to reveal where artifacts had been hidden.
Earlier this week, ISIS posted images online purportedly showing militants driving a tank over a captured soldier, who it alleged had himself driven over militants.
Islamic State (ISIS) militants have destroyed historic artefacts at a Mosul museum in Iraq.
The head of the UN agency for culture, UNESCO, has said the artefacts’ destruction is a war crime.
Irina Bokova said she was appalled by an act of “cultural cleansing”, calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the issue.
ISIS posted a video on February 26 appearing to show militants with sledgehammers smashing statues in a museum in Mosul.
Some of the artefacts date back to the 9th Century BC.
ISIS militants said the statues were “false idols” that had to be smashed.
At a news conference in Paris, Irina Bokova described the video as “a real shock”, saying she was simply unable to finish watching the footage.
“I was filled with dismay by images of the attack on the Mosul Museum,” she said.
In a statement, UNESCO stressed that under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is a war crime.
The statement added that Irina Bokova had already called on the ICC to launch an investigation.
She also announced the creation of a “global coalition against the illegal trafficking of cultural goods”, adding that it would meet in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Louvre Museum in Paris said in a statement: “This destruction marks a new stage in the violence and horror, because all of humanity’s memory is being targeted in this region that was the cradle of civilization, the written word, and history.”
In the video released via ISIS social media sites, black-clad men push over statues, smash them with sledgehammers and use a pneumatic drill to destroy the rubble.
The video shows one man drilling through and pulling apart what appears to be a stone winged-bull, an Assyrian protective deity dating to the 7th Century BC.
One of the militants in the video seeks to justify their destruction in religious terms.
Analysts say the artefacts are unique and priceless, although the museum does also house copies of some items.
ISIS has controlled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, since June 2014. The US military have said that an assault on the city by the Iraqi army could happen within months.
The region under ISIS control in Iraq has nearly 1,800 of Iraq’s 12,000 registered archaeological sites.
The reported destruction of the statues follows recent reports that ISIS burnt down Mosul Library, which housed over 8,000 ancient manuscripts.
A prehistoric cave in southern France dubbed Sistine Chapel has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
The 1,000 drawings carved in the walls of the Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc, or Grotte Chauvet, are 36,000 years old and include mammoths and hand prints.
Cave experts only discovered it in 1994 as the entrance had been concealed by a rockfall 23,000 years earlier.
It was one of several cultural and natural wonders granted the status by a committee of delegates in Doha, Qatar.
UNESCO said the cave, located in the Ardeche region of France featured “the earliest and best-preserved expressions of artistic creation of the Aurignacian people”, who were believed to be the first modern human culture in Europe.
“The large number of over 1,000 drawings covering over 8,500 square metres [90,000 square feet], as well as their high artistic and aesthetic quality, make Grotte Chauvet an exceptional testimony of prehistoric cave art,” said UNESCO.
The 1,000 drawings carved in the walls of the Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc, or Grotte Chauvet, are 36,000 years old and include mammoths and hand prints
“Its state of preservation and authenticity is exceptional as a result of its concealment over 23 millennia.”
The entrance was found 25 metres underground, with the cave stretching into several branches covering around 800 metres.
Fewer than 200 researchers a year are allowed inside the cave and the more remote parts remain unexplored.
The painted images, which are the oldest known human drawings, include dozens of animals such as wild cats, rhinos, bison and bears.
Remnants and prints of real ancient animals have also been found, including the remains of large cave bears which are believed to have hibernated at the site.
The Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc is the oldest cultural property classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
A full-scale replica of the cave, the Cavern of Pont-d’Arc, is currently under construction nearby and is due to open next year, in a bid to share the discovery with a wider audience.
“The inscription of the Cave as a World Heritage site is a wonderful tribute to the first artists in history,” said Pascal Terrasse, president of the Cavern of Pont-d’Arc Grand Project.
“It guarantees the conservation of the cave and allows us to understand and explain its significance as heritage.”
Researchers believe the cave was never permanently inhabited by humans “but was instead of a sacred character” and “used for shamanist ritual practice”.
“It is our whole human and artistic history which is summarized in what has been rightly called, the prehistoric Sistine Chapel,” said Jean-Jack Queyranne, the president of the Rhône-Alpes Region.
“Everything is there: profile, perspective, movement, but also a desire to communicate a message of humanity and creation, which is also that which we bear through our proposal as a World Heritage List nomination or through the creation of The Cavern Pont-d’Arc.”
Italian PM Matteo Renzi has called on business people to fund repairs to the ancient city of Pompeii.
Matteo Renzi made the plea after heavy rainfall caused flooding the UNESCO World Heritage site, damaging walls and buildings.
Pompeii, where volcanic ash smothered a Roman city in AD79, has suffered slow degradation for many years.
On Tuesday, Italy’s culture minister said he would unblock 2 million euros ($2.7 million) “to get the machine working”.
Priority will also be given to work to reduce the risk of flooding in unexcavated areas.
Italian PM Matteo Renzi has called on business people to fund repairs to the ancient city of Pompeii
Matteo Renzi made the request for funding at a news conference on Wednesday.
The Italian government has already called upon the private sector to help restore other ancient monuments, including the Colosseum in Rome and the Trevi fountain.
Italy’s culture budget has suffered from cutbacks in recent years, leading the UN and EU to issue warnings about the state of the country’s historical sites.
The ancient city of Pompeii is one of the world’s greatest archaeological treasures. Every year, some 2.5 million tourists visit the site, near the southern city of Naples.
A 105 million-euro ($145 million) “Great Pompeii” rehabilitation project was launched in 2013, with the EU contributing 41.8 million euros. However, one Italian newspaper said on Tuesday that only 588,000 euros had been spent.
UNESCO has suspended US voting rights after Washington skipped a deadline for paying its dues.
The US stopped its contributions – which made up about a fifth of the agency’s funding- when UNESCO gave the Palestinians membership in 2011.
Israel, which halted its dues at the same time, has also had its UNESCO voting rights suspended.
The US and Israel said admitting the Palestinians was a misguided attempt to bypass the Middle East peace process.
UNESCO’s loss of $80 million a year in US funding has forced it to pare back American-led initiatives, including Holocaust education and a project to restore water facilities in Iraq.
Paris-based UNESCO is charged with designating World Heritage sites, promoting education and supporting press freedom, as well as countering extremism.
UNESCO has suspended US voting rights after Washington skipped a deadline for paying its dues
The American ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, told Reuters news agency: “We intend to continue our engagement with UNESCO in every possible way.”
The US, however, has said it cannot legally contribute to a UN agency that implies recognition of a Palestinian state.
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, told the Associated Press news agency that his country supported the US decision, “objecting to the politicization of UNESCO, or any international organization, with the accession of a non-existing country like Palestine”.
The Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, Elias Sanbar, said other countries were beginning to make up for the funding vacuum left by the US.
But he added: “Is this in the interest of the US, to be replaced?”
The US suspension comes amid attempts by Washington to broker peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The talks have hit a stumbling block in the last week over the continued Israeli expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.